In the next 5 years a €6m project called NeuroFast has started to decide whether over-eating can be categorised as a potentially addictive behaviour comparable to alcohol and drugs.
It is thought that food addiction could be one of the reasons behind the growing obesity epidemic but at the moment food is not classified as an addictive substance instead such patterns of behaviour are categorised as 'impulse control disorders' rather than addictions but scientists believe that food addiction shares many similarities with other addictive actions such as gambling, drugs and alcohol.
It is estimated that 1 in 200 individuals (about 0.5% of the population) develop severe eating disorders associated with obesity and these are the most likely people to fit the criteria for ‘food addiction’.
Professor Julian Mercer of the University of Aberdeen said “How and why food could be addictive is being explored to ascertain whether this is one of the reasons why people eat too much and develop obesity”.
They hope it could help to clarify if food addiction is something that leads to conditions like obesity or binge eating. If categorised it could lead to changes in the treatment of obesity and helping people to lose weight.
Caron Leckie, nutritionist at Diet Chef, a home delivery weight loss company, says, “The evidence to come within the next 5 years will be interesting to look at, however ‘food addiction’ may only refer to a very small sub group of the population with disordered eating behaviours – this will not apply to the majority of people who over-eat and need help to lose weight.”
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